Do findings in science settle the question of free will?
LE3 .A278 2014
Bachelor of Arts
Recently, some scientists and science-minded theorists, in contrast to traditional philosophers, have taken it upon themselves to answer one of the oldest and most fundamental philosophical questions: “Do we have free will?” These theorists claim to settle the question in a new way: through scientific findings. In this essay I examine three arguments from this new generation of scientists and science-minded philosophers, all attacking “conscious control” – a central aspect of free will. One argument precludes conscious control based on a qualified notion of determinism; another hinges on undermining conscious control due to the nature of causation; and the last is rooted in challenging conscious control based on the particular understanding of the mind advocated by a contemporary theory in psychology. I examine these three not only because conscious control is a central aspect of free will and the debunking of conscious control would require us to abandon the important practices this commitment justifies – such as our assessments of responsibility, and the institutions that presuppose the legitimacy of these assessments – but also because they are currently popular and have not received enough critical attention. Because all three arguments target conscious control in one way or another, I focus on assessing whether they establish that we lack such control. I conclude that none of the arguments succeed in this respect. Insofar as these arguments are concerned, free will is secure.
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